X = Y
Situated at the heart of Toshi City, awaiting the arrival of a dangerous gangster, officers guarded the police department, patrolling the area attentively. Rei and Kei were inside the car park of the police department, where two unfamiliar officers stood watch beside the car Kei desired to investigate.
"Detective Kei Hirojima. This person is with me. He's my bodyguard." said Kei.
He revealed his identification card, and the officers acknowledged it, giving both brothers entry to the car. From his duffle bag, Kei withdrew two jars of fingerprint powder, white and black, and plastic gloves for him and Rei. They wore the gloves on, now feeling natural to both.
"What are you going to do with those?" Kei questioned.
Kei opened the jar containing white powder and withdrew a brush from the duffle bag, dabbing it into the container, then applying it to the steering wheel. Fingerprints began forming on the wheel, with the powder falling into the seat and onto the pedals.
"Its fingerprint powder. I'm going to use clear tape to transfer the fingerprints and put them into glass slides. Check the bonnet and the boot for anything there." said Kei, requesting assistance from Rei.
"Where's the key?" Rei asked.
The other officers were watching and overheard their conversation. Taking them out of his pocket, one of the officers approached the car side, dangling the keys in front of them.
"Are you looking for these?" the male officer said.
Rei turned around, and he put his hand out, the keys dropping smoothly into his palm.
"Thank you." said Rei.
"How long is it going to take, detective?" the officer questioned.
"Not too long. I've found many fingerprints from the wheel. We need to check the glovebox, the boot and the bonnet. Maybe the seats and the underside too." Kei responded, focusing on collecting the fingerprints.
Kei rolled out a strand of clear tape, snipping them into smaller pieces and strapping them on the wheel. Each different fingerprint he identified, he imprinted onto the clear tape, placing them securely within glass slides. Meanwhile, Rei went around to the boot, opening it and looking for any clues. However, it was empty, and the bonnet which contained the engine looked normal, though he was incapable of discerning faults within car engines, never having seen one prior.
"There's nothing in the boot or the bonnet. Everything looks good to me." said Rei.
Kei opened the glovebox, but like the rest of the car, it was baren. He bedaubed the interior of the glovebox, finding more fingerprints, but they were identical to the ones on the wheel.
"There's nothing else in the car. We've searched everything we can. I'll take this to Detective Yasuhide so he can pass it on to the forensics team in the lab." said Kei, exiting the car with his duffle bag and briefcase.
Kei began walking into the back entrance, and Rei followed him. They entered, walking down a long corridor past a staircase to the upper floor jail cells.
"I want to get that guy so badly. If he's here, then I'll make sure he feels it!" Rei said with resentment, smashing his palm into his fist.
A police car pulled up at the front, and a man wearing his trademark black kamishimo, in a wheelchair, had been escorted into the precinct. All the eyes of the officers, like hawks, their prey vulnerable.
Detective Yasuhide, walking towards the back, found Rei and Kei. Signalling with a hand gesture, he wanted them to go with him.
"Detective Hirojima! The culprit is here!" Yasuhide exclaimed, seizing their attention.
"Culprit? It's him. He's here. We can investigate Naruki Jin, Rei." Kei said, looking at Rei's determined expression.
"Yeah, let's do it." Rei replied, vexed.
Sat down opposite Rei, Kei, and Yasuhide was Naruki Jin, sat in a wheelchair. On the desk was a recorder, with documents, paper and pens. Yasuhide had his laptop sat on his lap. Naruki Jin tried looking away at their eyes, especially the glare Rei emitted and expressed guilelessly, remaining unsuspecting and oblivious. Kei pressed the red record button, picking up his pen, putting it to paper.
"Hello, Naruki Jin. I am here to question you on your affiliations with gangs, particularly gang violence and murder. Now, if you give us information, we can reduce your sentence. We know you don't want to be in this situation. No one does." Kei said sympathetically.
"I'm not going to tell you anything! As long as he's around, no one can stop him! You'll never find him, ever!" Naruki exclaimed, smiling macabrely, his death imminent within his mind.
"Him. Another general, or the one that made him a general? It could be another gang member that's planning something." Kei thought.
"Did anyone find a phone on him?" Kei asked Yasuhide.
"No. We found knives we took from him clothes and that detonation button. All the potential evidence from the warehouse was destroyed." Yasuhide responded.
"What if I told you I already met him." Kei retorted, seriously, egotistically smiling.
"How?! You can't..." Naruki exclaimed, worry taking over slowly.
"Why not?" Kei replied, spinning his pen in his right hand. "The car you used for your escape. Who gave it to you?" Kei questioned.
"Who? It's mine." Naruki replied, his worry becoming prominent.
"Yes, it's yours. Because someone gave it to you. Three sets of fingerprints, three different people. One of those is yours, right? Can I take your fingerprint to check?" Kei added.
"If I react, he's going to know I'm trying to protect myself, giving away that my fingerprints are on it. Do I try and play it off? He doesn't know because he wants to compare what he found to mine." Naruki thought.
Grinning detestably, with ego, he put his hand out. "Here, you can have it." Naruki said.
From his duffle bag underneath his chair, Kei brought out a glass case with solid black paint. He opened it and placed it in front of Naruki.
"Smother your thumb with it and put it on this card." Kei said, now placing a white card next to the paint case.
Reluctant, Naruki smothered his right thumb into the paint, his appendage turning black. He pressed his paint-covered thumb onto the card, leaving his thumbprint. Kei took the card, taking out clear tapes in glass slides from his bag, comparing the thumbprints he collected.
"So the car wasn't stolen? Good to know!" Kei said, smiling.
"What?!" Naruki exclaimed, realising he reacted.
"Ah, so it was given to you by someone. Your face says it all." Kei added.
"I'm getting tired of this! Look! Listen to me! Who is your leader?! Tell me!" Rei exclaimed.
"This may be good. I'll let Rei do his thing, then intervene when I need to." Kei presumed to himself.
"The guys who you hired told us you were a general, and there are more of you! Where are they!" Rei exclaimed, his eyes blistering Naruki's soul.
"I'm not going to tell you!" Naruki exclaimed.
"Too bad because your fingerprints were on the car, and there are two more." Rei said.
"It's funny too because the number plate you hid on that car belongs to someone, but the name is fake. Haruraki Egiro doesn't exist. But the dealership that car was registered to before being sold is on the other side of town. What would happen if we went there, Naruki?" Yasuhide said, smiling, enthusiastic, crossing his legs, emitting intimidation.
"No...No! They'll know about the other generals...the three of us!" Naruki thought, panic now on his face.
Smacking both hands powerfully on the table, shaking it and the floor, Rei stood up, towering above everyone, rage and frustration skyrocketing.
"Tell us now, or you're going to prison for your entire life! What was your plan at the warehouse!" Rei screamed, frightening him more.
"Wait! I'll tell you...but what happens to me?" Naruki said, comprehending his situation, his nerves shot.
"It depends on the information." Kei responded.
"The ones who killed those people. Hidemasa, Masao and Shu. They messaged me that you were coming to their house. They said they would bring you to the warehouse, so I laced the walls with gunpowder and brought more men. I was told after by one of my men that they were arrested by police." Naruki said.
"Who told you to tell them to kill people!" Rei exclaimed. "If you don't tell me, then I will show you..."
"What does that even mean?" Kei thought.
"You'll never find him. He doesn't even exist. He's the Eternal Ruler. Eien Shihaisha. That is his name." Naruki said, frightened but now smiling maniacally. He smacked his hand against his forehead. "Wow. Sublime! I didn't know telling people was so relieveing!" Naruki said hysterically, cackling aloud.
"We've lost him," said Yasuhide. "You broke him."
"Eternal...Ruler..." Rei said.
That name, images flew through his mind, remembering the fire from the Dojo. The charred body of a student. The memorial service, the graves, the elders, Seijiro, his family in the mountains. He sat down, ragdoll-like, with a distraught expression; trauma was seeping through his face.
"Rei! Are you okay? Rei!" Kei said, now concerned, began shaking Rei at the shoulders, grasping him.
Rei turned his head to look at Kei, his pupil expanding, widening as time elapsed. Sweat dripping down his face, his jaw dropped, mouth open.
"Is Rei okay? Hello, Rei?" Yasuhide said, waving his arm in front of Rei.
"I've heard that name before...Kei..." Rei said slowly, in dread.
Naruki stopped laughing and began glaring at Rei.
"Where?! How?!" Naruki exclaimed.
"You've heard that name, but do you know who he is?" Kei said.
"Yeah...fire...He killed all of my friends...In a fire. Kei...fire...like our house. Our parents are on fire...the Eternal Ruler on fire..." Rei said, his thoughts and speech incoherent.
Like a transformer bursting with electricity, sparks everywhere, Naruki knew who the two in front, one with the hood, and the other a detective, were. "They're the kids we saw...that ran outside of the house we were robbing. The one Eien set on fire...They've come back to kill us...To get us back..." Naruki assumed, horrified.
"Jin! Was this Eien Shihaisha the one who burnt our house down?!" Kei exclaimed. "Answer me!" Kei screamed, unexpected of him, bringing Rei back to reality.
"What do I do? What do I say? Why did Eien burn down the house? So no one knew of his existence? To cover up his tracks? He said: 'I don't exist, and no one else should. I was alone, so they should be alone. No one should know of me.' None of us wanted it, but he dragged us to have more power than any other gang." Naruki thought. "Yeah...Eien Shihaisha burnt down a house years ago. I don't know what he's done recently. He keeps it hidden, but he commands me to do things for his sake. He is the ruler...He is eternal." Naruki stated, his head down in gloom.
"Yeah...but Eien Shihaisha doesn't exist. He's not an actual person. I've searched the entire database, and no one recorded, who was born in Japan is called Eien Shihaisha." Yasuhide stated, accompanied by a surprised expression.
"Lovely...So he doesn't exist...and I thought I was crazy..." Naruki said, smiling frenetically, giggling shortly after.
"I'm okay now..." said Rei, sweating, breathing stiffly.
"Who are the other generals? Are you a general? What are the generals. Tell us." Kei spoke firmly.
"The generals were his friends...but then he became too powerful. Now we're his slaves..." Naruki said, now breathing heavily. "I'm going to die..."
"What is he talking about?" Rei questioned.
"Over the past couple of years, gang leaders, higher-ups have been killed. They've done the worst things imaginable. I've found so many bodies, but I couldn't find where the gang members who have killed go, or a majority of the time, they become cold." Kei explained.
"I've been having that here too. Dead people here and there, but I've had trouble finding the killers, or when I do, they're regular people who have been hired by a mysterious man." Yasuhide added.
Kei began writing everything they found on paper, whilst Yasuhide wrote electronically. After gathering the evidence, scribing what Naruki said, he switched off the recording and stood up.
"I think that's it." Kei said, staring at Rei, ensuring he was well. "Rei? We still have the afternoon left. Before sundown, can you come with me to the dealership?" Kei asked.
"Yeah...sure. It'll take my mind off all this. I may need to take a break afterwards." Rei spoke, feeling faint, near nauseous.
"Rei. Go to the waiting area. I need to give some things to Yasuhide." Kei said, packing his things.
Rei went to the waiting area, sitting on the plastic seats, his hands in his pockets. Everything that he dealt with since arriving at Toshi City, all the death, the pain, the suffering of others, his life, became cargo in a freight train. Every container, a unique point in time, filled with memories, all on the same train, are requirements for his existence to be valued, providing meaning to his actions, making emotions more special.
Kei, making his way to Rei with his duffle bag and briefcase, noticed the absence of emotion for him. He was stagnant, and his life was awry. Progressing to him, Kei was scouring through his pockets and found his keys. He stood in front of Rei, waiting for him to realise. Some time passed, and Kei stood there smiling.
"Hey, you okay?" said Kei.
Rei lifted his head casually, staring at his brother. He stood up and began walking away.
"Yeah." Rei said, whilst Kei was walking beside him, now outside the precinct.
"How do you deal with the thoughts of our house." Rei asked.
"Me? I went to therapy sessions for it. I stopped after feeling better, but Meya and Kanda helped me find someone. I can give you my therapists number. Oh, shoot! Your phone. Is it still dead?" Kei exclaimed.
"I don't have it on me. I left it in the hotel room. It's been dead since I first saw you. That was some time ago. I haven't spoken properly to Kanda in years...only when I called him to see if he was okay." Rei stated, pondering about Kanda.
They arrived at Kei's unmarked car, and he loaded his duffle bag and briefcase into the boot of his car, with Rei standing there, looking inside the boot.
"When did you do that?" Kei asked, closing the boot.
"On the night of the explosion at Abe's apartment. What did you give to the other detective? The evidence we got from the house and car?" Rei questioned.
"Yeah, the small amounts of evidence. Hop in. We're going to the dealership. It should be about a two-hour drive." Kei said, switching on the engine, locking the doors and driving away.
Meanwhile, with the sky an orange tint, Eien knocked on a door to an apartment on the second floor. A woman, delighted with the orange clothing he tailored that had orange patterns suffused, embroidered majestically, across the piece, smiled kindly. She gave him five 1,000 yen notes.
"Thank you! It wonderful! I was worried at first, but Hasaka really does an amazing job!" she exclaimed jubilantly.
"This is enough. The orange sea of fire is beautfiul. Thank you for your patronage. This money will do me well." Eien said, bowing kindly.
"Yeah! Thank you again!" the woman replied, oblivious to his sentiment, closing the door.
Now at Hasaka's fit, Eien returned, having delivered everything he needed. Iroha Hasaka, standing outside, looking at the decor of her shop, was about to pull down the metal shutter. She turned her head, with her hand on her chin, implying her deep thought, and saw Eien.
"Eien! You're back. Just in time! Do you think we should change how the shop looks?" Iroha questioned Eien, who stood beside her, staring at the shop cluelessly.
"I have the money. Here. I have my other job to go too now." Eien said, lifelessly, lacking incentive.
"You keep it! You work hard for me every day, Eien. Have fun at your job!" Iroha exclaimed.
Eien began walking away, eventually arriving at a group of warehouses near a construction site. Wearing the same clothes as before, he walked into one of them. There, he saw blacksmiths with anvils, their faces and clothing covered in soot, pouring molten iron and hammering it into rods. Enamoured by the molten metal, glowing a zestful orange, he went to his post, adorning an orange apron then wielding a hammer, grabbed from a set of hammers hung up on a wall.
He sat down on a rusted metal stool, pouring molten metal using tongs into a stone cup. He produced metal rods, metal equipment, and items requested on documents in front of him. The life of Eien Shihaisha, during the afternoon, a blacksmith who enjoyed fire more than anything in the world, melding metal earnestly, fastidiously.
"Eien!" exclaimed a bald man in his forties, wearing a cream bandana, blue overalls, black boots, trousers and top. He had a sledgehammer resting against his back, held in his left hand.
Eien looked up, staring at him blankly, returning to work.
"Its nearing completion, Mr. Okabera." Eien said, slamming his hammer, the handle encased in rubber, the hammerhead covered in soot against molten iron.
"Call me Mahiro! No need to be formal!" he exclaimed, laughing mildly. He slapped Eien's back multiple times, and his laughter increased.
"How long are you going to be here for?" Mahiro questioned.
"Hey boss! Just a second!" another worked wearing a do-rag exclaimed, beckoning the boss, interrupting their conversation.
"Until the fire shines its brightest in the night..." Eien responded, fixated on the molten metal, running gently, tranquilly.
"Oh, the night? Well, stay safe. Try not to get burnt!" Mahiro bellowed, now laughing loudly, walking away.
At a car dealership named 'Toshi Premium Motors', Rei and Kei exit the car, surveying the area. The sky still had an orange tint, and the dealership was still open, preparing for its closure. The sun was about to reach the earth, its entirety visible in the sky.
The brothers strolled into the dealership, this time without a duffle bag or briefcase. There were cars on display, and the dealership itself was a large blinding white room with a help desk at the end. A woman saw them, approaching the brothers, in her uniform, looking professional and business-like. The woman's hair was tied up in a bun, with a red stick through it, holding it up.
"Hello there! How may I help you?" she asked with an inviting smile.
Kei pulled out his identification card, and she stared, wondering why a detective was present.
"Detective Kei Hirojima. I wanted to know about a car that was bought here by a person called Haruraki Egiro." Kei spoke cautiously and confidently.
"Is this person your assistant?" she questioned Rei.
"He's my bodyguard. It's been dangerous around here lately." Kei responded, smiling.
"Hello." Rei said, trying to remain incognito, his demeanour making him conspicuous.
"Come with me, and I'll try to help you as best I can!" the woman replied, smiling in response.
"What I want to know is, he sold the car to Haruraki Egiro?" Kei asked.
"I don't know myself. We've sold many cars since I've been working here. I'll ask the senior manager. We're closing soon, but he's the last one to leave." she responded happily.
"What are the chances that its him? Slim to none. He's the manager. He overlooks sales, not make them." Rei thought to himself.
They arrived at the reception desk next to the help desk, and there was another woman there, wearing similar clothing, but she had long, straight, black hair. The woman who escorted them there left. There was a door leading to a room behind it, which was ostensibly a staff room.
"Please wait here. I'll bring the senior manager with you." the woman said at the reception said, smiling awkwardly.
She went into the room at the back, opening the door, and Rei noticed a man wearing a black suit and shoes but no tie. The woman exited the room, following behind her was a balding man with no hair on his crown. He wore similar uniforms to the other men.
"Hello, detective. What can I do for you?" he asked helpfully.
"We're looking for the person who sold a car to Haruraki Egiro? I want to know if you've noticed anything suspicious while working here." Kei added.
"Haruraki Egiro? Look it up for him, Chikako." the senior manager said.
"Yes. I needed your permission. I will do that now." Chikako Tsuru responded, smiling kindly, working at her computer.
"What is your name, if I can have it?" Kei asked.
"I'm Yoshiharu Furuhashi. The senior manager. Um...do you need the number plate, Chikako?" he asked supportively.
"No. I found the car Haruraki Egiro owns. The person who sold it was Kunio. He's in the staff room. I'll get him for you." she said.
"Hey...Kei...There's another guy in the back. Do you think it's him?" Rei whispered.
"We'll see, Rei." Kei responded.
The man from the staff room came out with the reception lady, and the senior manager left.
"I will let you take care of it, detective." Senior Manager Yoshiharu said, nodding and smiling.
"Hello detective. What did you want from me?" Kunio Sai said.
"You sold a car to someone called Haruraki Egiro, right?" Kei said.
Kunio's demeanour changed, his attitude plummeted. Worry and terror appeared on his face, becoming more apparent, prevailing. He gulped, beginning to sweat.
"Y-Yeah..." he responded.
Thus, nearing closer to someone correlated with the Eternal Ruler, Eien Shihaisha, the brothers would soon be engulfed viciously by his tyranny. Occurrences elsewhere, events unfolding, the loss and love of people, would grasp them by their thread of life, gradually unravelling it.